Holly Dicker profiles a newcomer to the club scene who's developed a striking signature sound.
"In a niqāb you are anonymous, but when you take it off you are yourself again," she says. "It's like an exposure. Isn't that what we do as electronic artists? You put yourself out there, and then that moment doesn't belonging to you any more, but you are still part of it. It's such a fragile thing and I wanted to make a piece out of this." She is still getting compliments about the performance over a year later.
I caught a more refined and clubbier live set at UH Fest in Budapest later in 2018. I was impressed by how it was both avant-garde and functional, moving majestically between quirky sonic details and slamming techno. One vocal section was particularly striking. "It's a religious chant from Tibet," she says. "I was in India for a Musicboard residency. We were in an ancient temple carved into the mountain, and to our luck a Tibetan group was there using the chanting room. I didn't want to move, we were in the meditation position, no one was moving, but I had to record it." Being bathed in the sound of those Tibetan chants, with tears streaming down her cheeks, reminded Aydin of another experience, one that most of us can relate to. "It's techno. It's fucking techno. It's exactly the same feeling," she says.
Making aural connections between worlds is at the centre of Aydin's current practice. She's interested in rooting out the similarities of sound sources within a wide range of audio, which includes field recordings and noise, as well as folk and religious and club music. The shared spirituality of ancient Tibetan chanting and techno is a prime example. "I love combining these two because it's so basic, it fits perfectly." The connections are never random. "I am very picky, most things are not fitting at all," she says of her live set, which utilises a range of analogue machines, samples and musical ideas she's been collecting over the years. "But when I find the thing that fits, then it gives it that extra effect."
In the years most teenagers were rebelling against their parents, Aydin was playing the piano. But in the beginning, this was her own form of rebellion. "My parents didn't want it," she tells me over Skype from her living room in Berlin. Born in Istanbul and raised in Izmir, a "liberal village filled with four million people" in westernmost Turkey, Aydin has devoted her entire youth to music. A family friend introduced her to piano at age ten. Three years later she was enrolled at the State Conservatory. "I didn't do math or anything, I didn't go to high school," she says. "I've only studied music all my life."
Aydin is now in her early 30s. Since graduating with a masters degree in solo piano, which she completed in Stuttgart, she's been making up for lost time. She had a busy 2018, performing at several festivals throughout Europe in her current guise as Nene H. She's also put in storming performances in Berlin at Boiler Room and Funkhaus. She's only been involved in the club scene since moving to Berlin in 2015. She didn't know anybody prior to the move—there were no mentors or DJ friends. "I did everything on my own," she says. "Now I am getting to have more close relationships with other DJs and artists, and I get really inspired by that." They include people like Ian McDonnell from Lakker, who released Aydin's latest EP, and Kaltès from female:pressure, with whom she's collaborated.
2018 had highs and lows for Aydin, who maintained a hectic touring schedule even after losing her father. She spent the year based in Izmir with her family. "It gives you a different power to be able to do it even though you are in such a fragile state," she says about the 15 gigs she performed in two months last summer. "Now it's calming down, I'm happy to go to gigs and share the moment with people, but in the beginning it was really hard." Being productive helped her through the grieving process, she admits, but since the gigs have dropped off it's starting to hit her. She's back in Berlin now but plans to visit Turkey and her family more frequently.
Aydin started composing and producing music while studying for her master's degree. Around the same time she discovered electronic music and Berghain. This was her second phase of rebellion—this time against the classical music strictures that had been imposed on her since a teenager. After more than a decade of performing other people's music, adhering to stringent rules, and being made to feel like a "weird kid" because of her devotion to the piano, the communal and intuitive world of electronic music was a revelation.
"I realised that I never listened to music," she says. "When you practice, you only listen to what you are playing and after that you don't have the brain left for anything else. My relationship with music switched drastically after I stopped playing piano."
She released her debut cassette, Tingöçü, through the UK label Seagrave, a crude four-track release featuring Arabic instrumentation, haunted vocals and sinewy club nodes. Aydin refined her cross-referential sound on Metacommunication, her debut 12-inch for Bedouin Records. But the EP with Kaltès on Eotrax is her most potent recording so far. Titled Protest, its two tracks translate feminist resilience into a taut industrious techno rallying call. "гетто", meanwhile, for Don't Be Afraid's compilation series, shows off Aydin's bolshy techno side. It, too, makes use of a noisy Arabic modality that rattles through the centre. It's a sharp progression, and even though she's still defining her production methodology––"There are a few tracks that I started a year ago and now I've returned to them, I realise I am already working differently," she says––it bears the makings of a distinct signature.
That said, her online mixes, live sets and productions don't always obviously correlate. "I'm interested in lots of different styles and still want to explore," she says. "It's important for me to not get stuck on one thing any more, because I did that already." In her Rinse France residency she hopes to connect the dots, which began end of last year with a "noise, low beats, weird shit" show featuring a guest mix from Hiro Kone. She's invited Giant Swan and Grebenstein & Seefried for shows since. It's also her chance to practice DJing, which she only started a year ago. Next to bringing out "three EPs at least" in 2019, which includes full-throttle techno for SPFDJ's label and a more experimental follow up for Eotrax, she plans to turn the studiousness she once had with the piano––practicing for hours every day––to the decks.
"I was such a nerd. My early teenage years, I was just practicing like crazy," she says. It must be hard to turn your back on something that you have dedicated so much time to. "I was really focused. You get blinded. You are devoted to it. There's this love and hate affair with the instrument. You are always with it, everything relies on it, you don't know anything else." Now she's fighting against that training with her productions, "trying to be more intuitive" about writing music. Her next few tracks she wants to make "super fast, just play and record in real time, rather than producing," something she admits she's never attempted before.
How does she feel about the piano now? "In the beginning there was hate, now there's love again. You do it for love. It's better this way."